Manuel Rosales is led out of the courtroom Tuesday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges. (Dennis Culver/news-press.com)
Fort Myers, Florida -- Manuel de Jesus Rosales will spend the rest of his life in prison after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to the brutal 2010 murder of his grandson and attempted murder of his daughter.
The 45-year-old Lehigh Acres resident pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges stemming from the fatal throat slashing with a machete of 7-week-old Josue Rosales. Rosales also pleaded guilty to a similar attack that critically injured his daughter, Karminda Rosales Salazar.
Rosales sat mostly quiet in court Tuesday and rocked gently in his chair. He was handcuffed and wearing a jail jumpsuit.
He had to communicate with the judge and his attorney's via a translator. He broke down into tears a handful of times during his appearance.
Before he was sentenced, Rosales addressed the courtroom through his interpreter and said he wasn't crazy, but it was "witchcraft" and the "devil" that led to the horrific events.
"I don't feel guilty about this happening," he said. "I always did my best."
Rosales again broke down into tears as he said he wanted forgiveness from his daughter for what happened.
"But when the person is possessed by the devil, you don't understand anything about that," he said.
His guilty plea spared him possibly facing the death penalty if he had been convicted in a jury trial. Instead, he will serve two consecutive life sentences in prison.
Assistant State Attorney Anthony Kunasek said the decision to drop the death penalty was difficult.
"This was a senseless and horrific murder of a 7-week-old baby and attempted murder of a young mother that affected many lives," he said. "In this case, we had extensive discussions with the surviving victim regarding her desires and the resolution of this case."
On May 20, 2010, Rosales and Salazar were involved in an altercation at their residence on Gilbert Avenue South when Rosales stabbed Salazar and chased her outside to the driveway, where he slashed her throat and left her lying on the ground.
He then went inside the residence, came back outside with the infant, stood over Salazar and said, "Here's your bastard," as he slashed the baby's throat in front of his daughter and dropped the baby on the ground.
Mauricio Maldonado was living at the house and witnessed the attack. He said he initially locked himself and the two babies inside when Rosales chased Salazar outside with the machete.
He told investigators Rosales broke into the house through a back sliding door, and Maldonado went outside to find Rosales on the ground. That's when Rosales came back outside with Josue Rosales.
Emergency responders found Salazar and her child lying in a pool of blood in the driveway. They were both taken to the hospital in critical condition, but the infant died shortly after.
Rosales was holding his daughter's other child, 1-year-old Brian Rosales, when deputies arrived.
Brian Rosales was unharmed during the attack, and it was later determined through DNA testing that Rosales was the 1-year-old's father as well as Salazar's.
Court records show Rosales had a violent relationship with his daughter, and there had previously been domestic violence injunctions against him dating to 2009. He was arrested for domestic violence in 2008.
Documents released by Rosales' attorneys in 2010 said the attack was prompted by Salazar's plans to move to New Jersey to be with the infant's father, Santos Cardone-Sevilla. She was on the phone with Sevilla when Rosales attacked her.
Investigators later found the machete believed to have been used in the attack under a mattress in the house.
After the attack, Salazar told detectives Rosales had "violated" her since she was 17 years old and was the father of Brian Rosales.
Kunasek said Salazar is continuing to heal physically and emotionally from the ordeal. She was not in court Tuesday.
"Understandably, she wants nothing to do with the defendant," he said. "She never wants to lay eyes on him again."
Kunasek said the state took Salazar's input into account when agreeing to two consecutive life terms for Rosales' guilty pleas.
State attorneys presented the judge with a note from Salazar, but its contents weren't discussed in court.
"Mr. Rosales is a despicable and violent human being, and as such should never walk among us again," Kunasek said. "Today's resolution does just that. Mr. Rosales will spend the rest of his natural life behind cement walls, never able to hurt the surviving victim or anyone else again. He will be truly forgotten by society and deserves nothing more."